RALEIGH – N.C. State football started its 2015 class, in some ways, much like it recruited in 2014: the Wolfpack’s first commitment is an in-state product and likely future defensive end.
Malik Douglas from South Brunswick High in Southport, N.C., was yet to be heavily recruited – earning just an offer from UNC-Charlotte – when he committed to the Wolfpack the weekend before signing day, after taking a junior day visit to N.C. State. However, the 6-4, 220-pound Douglas on paper appears to have intriguing potential. He reportedly ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds at NCSU’s summer camp, but he was more impressive with the explosiveness he showed.
That was on display on an Instagram video when South Brunswick staged a posterizing dunk by Douglas over a willing teammate. When the video is paused with Douglas’ leap at its apex, he has his elbow at rim level and is gripping the ball at a height that appears to be at the top of the box over the rim.
Athleticism aside, Douglas also appears to be a pretty decent football player. Statistically, Douglas piled up 71 tackles, including 16 sacks, as a junior. He also forced five fumbles, broke up three passes and blocked a punt. Despite playing for a winless South Brunswick squad, which may have contributed to the relative low-level of recruiting activity around him, Douglas was a unanimous first-team all-conference selection.
Last year, N.C. State signed 16 players from the state of North Carolina, a number that swells to 18 if you include a pair of preferred walk-ons in long snapper R.C. Brunstetter and linebacker Ty Linton, who signed to play football at UNC in 2010 before taking a three-year detour to college football by playing minor league baseball for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Only one of those in-state signees, prized prospect Kentavius Street of Greenville’s Rose High, was a defensive end, but N.C. State made the position a priority because of heavy personnel losses. NCSU signed three in the 2014 class, and a fourth, Justin Jones of South Cobb High in Austell, Ga., could play either inside or outside on the defensive line.
NCSU will probably need to take another end or two in this class in addition to Douglas to make sure there are adequate numbers at the position.
What Ifs Could Haunt Wolfpack
As the calendar gets ready to turn to March, the Wolfpack finds itself in a position where it would gladly welcome chatter of being on the bubble. The Pack would also bemoan that it even comes to this after a series of close calls in the always-fun but equally frustrating game of “what if.”
• What if N.C. Central had not made a staggering 41 of 45 free throws during an 82-72 overtime upset in Raleigh early in the season? The Eagles went 12 for 12 in the extra session to outscore NCSU 19-9 overall after regulation.
It’s worth noting that NCCU has proven to be a pretty good team, running away with the MEAC and positioning themselves as heavy favorites going into their league tournament.
Although the loss is probably not as bad as perceived based on name recognition, NCCU is still ranked outside the top 100 in the RPI and represents a blemish on the Pack’s résumé.
• What if N.C. State, riding a seven-game winning streak, not blown a 10-point lead at home with nine minutes to go against Missouri when the Tigers were ranked in the Top 25? What if freshman guard Anthony Barber not missed the front end of a one-and-one down 63-62 with 26 seconds left?
N.C. State would have scored a top-50 RPI win and a second solid non-conference triumph to tag with its road win at Tennessee.
• What if N.C. State had not given up an eight-point halftime lead at Wake Forest and then had a defensive breakdown that allowed Wake sophomore guard Codi Miller-McIntyre to rush down the court for a game-winning drive with four seconds left, giving Wake a 70-69 home win? (NCSU fans would chime in another what if: what if the referee had called traveling on Miller-McIntyre’s run to the basket?)
The setback in Winston-Salem continues to look worse seemingly every time the Deacons take the court towards the end of the season.
• What if N.C. State, which led nearly the entire second half at then-No. 1 and undefeated Syracuse, not turned it over twice while trying to nurse a one-point lead in the final 22 seconds, the latter of which set up a fast break layup for star Syracuse forward C.J. Fair to win the game with six seconds left.
As with the Wake Forest loss, NCSU fans could also point to Wolfpack sophomore forward T.J. Warren not getting the continuation on a potential and-one basket with 14 seconds left, or perhaps even an intentional foul on Syracuse guard Trevor Cooney who was chasing Warren down from behind.
A win over Syracuse would have obviously done wonders for N.C. State’s postseason chances.
It’s more difficult to justify the speculation on the Central loss, especially since the Wolfpack needed a three at the end of regulation from seldom-used walk-on Patrick Wallace just to force overtime. NCCU has also proven during the year they are a good free throw shooting team.
The other three losses though were all within State’s grasp and probably fall into the category of games that the Wolfpack should have won. In the hypothetical world where State closes out Missouri or Barber makes his free throws late; where Miller-McIntyre is not allowed to drive the length of the court without any pressure until he is already in the paint; and where Warren gets the basket at Syracuse or N.C. State does not turn it over and subsequently makes free throws, analysts would be breaking down the Pack’s potential NCAA Tournament seeding.
That’s how thin the margin of error was and is for N.C. State this year. It’s a line that the Pack will have to successfully walk in the ACC Tournament to reverse the what-ifs from the regular season.